Coming from the fabulous FAB press it’s the latest installment of our book review feature 100 Pages of Horror where we delve into a disjointed host of horror related books from Stephen King to and gore filled graphic novels and dissect the first 100 pages for you to digest.
Satanic Panic’s title comes from the crazed cultural hysteria of the 1980’s which held the same title where every element of pop culture was being called out as part of a widespread evil conspiracy to bring American kids into Satan’s fold and release Hell on earth from every home.
Taken up by crusading Christians, paranoid parents and manipulative media outlets the US of A was awash with warnings that everything from popular kids toys to heavy metal music to home computers would not only convert children to the dark side but allow them to summon demons, become possessed by the devil and destroy the very foundations of family that the Regan era was built on.
Growing up during that period the cartoons, films and music mentioned are all extremely evocative of my childhood however being that I was in England I was personally and perhaps thankfully unaware of much of the controversy and conspiracy that raged on the other side of the Atlantic.
Offering up 20 essays by a range of excellent authors and media critics and featuring comic art by Rick Trembles and original illustrations by Toronto artist Mike McDonnell the book takes on every aspect of the Satanic Panic phenomenon starting with a foreword by Adam Parfrey author of Apocalypse Culture provocatively entitled Meeting Satan and his Family.
In his opening Parfrey a renowned publisher of several works on Satanism describes meeting Anton LeVey the head of the controversial Church of Satan and hate figure throughout the Satanic Panic.
Detailing their time together and his interactions with LeVey’s daughter Zeena it is an interesting insight into the real person behind the masses of news stories who pops up again and again in other people’s tales from the times featured in this book.
Following this is an introduction by co-editor Kier-La Janisse who previously penned the excessively long titled House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films.
Janisse sets the scene of the Satanic Panic giving her own memories from the time and offering some context of the period. Importantly she explains that the approach of the book was from a fairly neutral standpoint and that all the authors where given free rein to express their own opinions while being mindful of the lives that were damaged during the events discussed.
The final line of the intro enticingly says “If I have learned anything from co-editing this book it’s that there are cover-ups, cock-ups and conspiracies – but often they’re not where you’re looking for them.”
The first real essay “The Only Word in the World is Mine”: Remembering ‘Michelle Remembers’ contains all three. A gripping essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Rape Revenge Films: A Critical Study, it goes into great depth on the notorious memoir Michelle Remembers realised in 1980 and considered the epicentre of the Satanic Panic.
Penned by the alleged childhood victim of satanic ritual abuse Michelle Smith and her therapist Dr Lawrence Pazder the shocking and terrifying book was not only a best seller but spurned on the media to action against the insidious rise of Satanic cults across America who according to the book were performing horrific rituals right now preparing for a cyclical Black Mass named the Feast of the Beast which was set to come back around in 1982 and bring about the apocalypse.
Scary for many reasons the tale of Michelle Remembers and the power it held over people is unbelievable as is the truth behind the book making this a mesmerising opening to an amazing collection of essays.
Author of Rue Morgue and Broken Pencil Alison Lang continues the literary investigation in The Unholy Passion: Sex and Gender Anxiety in Russ Martin’s Erotic Horror Paperbacks which discusses the emerging genre of satanic erotic fiction published by Playboy and featuring women succumbing to the powers of cults and demons and most outrageous of all actually enjoying it!
The next two essays Dicing with the Devil: The Crusade against Gaming and 20-Sided Sin: How Jack T. Chick was Drawn into the RPG War take us into the world of Dungeons and Dragons and the masses of debate surrounding the demonic side of role playing games.
It seems unbelievable now that fantasy board games stereotypically enjoyed by nerdy teens and social awkward adolescents could provoke such outrage but as Lucifer Rising: Sin, Devil Worship and Rock n’ Roll author Gavin Baddeley explains in Dicing with the Devil the Satanic Panic was very real and very prevalent.
Going into every facet of RPG’s even up to modern day and the various claims made against them from the notion that the manuals contained actual demonic spells to the reports that the plastic figures screamed when you tried to destroy them it is both a hilarious and worrying tale that proves true paranoia and its power.
Co-editor of Satanic Panic and the man behind Canuxploitation Paul Corupe touches on several of the events in the Dungeons and Dragons scandal focussing more on how Christian cartoonist Jack T. Chick was drawn in to it quite literally and the perversion of his positive messages to something much more extreamist and condemning making it a great companion piece to the previous essay.
Joshua Benjamin Graham takes on kids cartoons next in Masters of Imagination: Fundamentalist Readings of the Occult in Cartoons of the 1980’s where we hear how Christian commentators and evangelical authors managed to find Satanic messages and motifs in TV shows such as He-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and many more of what made up essential viewing for not only the youth of America but me as well.
It is extremely interesting to read not only the genesis of these shows which as Graham explains where essentially giant adverts but also the claims placed against them all concocted as America started to fear the dissolution of family values and the expanding influence television had over shaping the youth something we still have little real knowledge or understanding of today.
Last in the 100 pages is an excellent piece on two horror films Eric Weston’s 1981 Evilspeak and Robert Englund’s 976-Evil entitled Devil on the Line: Technology and the Satanic Film by Eighties People author Kevin L. Ferguson.
Taking the films apart and talking about their place within the horror genre Ferguson propositions that they represent not only America’s fear at the time of the Satanic Panic but also the rising power of technology and its invasion into everyday life.
Particularly thought-provoking considering how far we have come technologically in such a short space of time it is astonishing to see the same worries and woes made then against home computers and 900 numbers rearing their ugly heads again with kids access to mobile phones and social media which has also spurned a resurgence in the same sort of technophobic horror movies embodied in Unfriended and Friend Request.
Satanic Panic is a riveting read that I can’t recommend enough especially for those who grew up in the 80’s or who have an interest in social panics or Satanism and who doesn’t love those!
You can read more of out 100 Pages of Horror right Here and Satanic Panic Paperback is in book shops everywhere now with a Hardcover Limited Edition on sale exclusively from FAB Press… https://www.fabpress.com/satanic-panic.html